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Kayaking and hiking Kauai’s Wailua River



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This course takes us to a shallow embankment—an ideal spot to dock our kayaks and proceed with the next stage of the journey, the hike. We eagerly hit the trails, Uluwehi Falls in sight.

kayaking_Kauai_Wailua_RiverWeaving through a shaded forest of albesia trees, Nate points out to the group that our trail was formed less than a month ago. How is this possible? Just weeks earlier, roughly 18 inches of rain had deluged Kauai. Wailua Valley’s normally gentle streams had turned into rivers, carving a number of pathways through the area.

Today’s weather is more cooperative. The stream we follow gurgles softly, and golden bars of sunlight crack through the forest canopy. We amble along wood-planked boardwalks and climb over rocks and logs, slick with mossy growth. Beautiful, yet surprisingly exhausting work.

We arrive at a small waterfall lined with shelves of smooth, river-bore boulders. “Is this it?” asks a young girl in our group, who appears visibly tired. Not quite. But it’s a good sign, says Nate. The stream feeding this waterfall will take us straight to Uluwehi Falls, another five minutes by foot.

Our resolve is soon rewarded. Uluwehi Falls is a wall of water both imposing and awe-inspiring. The water barreling down the falls generates a rush of wind that blows right past us, followed by a gentle mist.

The group disperses. Some relax on large rocks overlooking the falls. Others stand at the lip of the shallow reservoir at the fall’s base, dipping their toes or simply looking up in amazement. I dive right in. The water is cold and bracing, invigorating my weary body. Afterward, I lie out to dry on one of the boulders.

“Can’t you just feel the energy of the falls?” asks one of my fellow tour members.

My plunge has given me a bit of the waterfall’s energy. A good thing. Like the waters of Uluwehi Falls, I still have to make the journey back down the Wailua River.

Kayak Wailua, 4-350 Kuhio Highway (in Wailua at the Wailua Shell Food Mart), (808) 822-3388, www.kayakwailua.com

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(This feature was originally published in the April 2010 issue of HAWAII Magazine.)
 
Photos: Kicka Witte

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